15 Keys to Parenting: What No One Tells You

So when you curled up on my bed last night and we watched The Power of Ten

nothing could have prepared me for the exponential power of the broken bits of us.

Of you four boys and two girls.

And your dad and I letting go and becoming one and multiplying love at the kitchen sink with the burnt pots stacked high and you kids scrapping and scraping hard and we all bled a bit everyday.

Who knew that toilet plungers falling off the ceiling could give you boys a black eye?

Or that you deciding to show us you could really ride your bike with your eyes closed would drive you right broadside into the pick-up truck, catapulting your chin into an implanting dent into the front fender of your Dad’s Ford.

Ten years, I walked by that chin-dented fender.

Ten years, it’s been a bit of dog and pony show and your hearts have catapulted through our own daily tilt, implanted themselves right into mine. Ten years, broken bits of us to the power of God and who knew exponential glory was found in the sticky and messy places?

Dented hearts are the ones bent real.

I never expected so much joy.






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I never expected that a mother’s labor and delivery never ends — and you never stop having to remember to breathe.

I didn’t know that taking the path of most resistance often leads to the most reward.

I didn’t know that you kids would birth me deeper into God and I didn’t know that you’d drive me crazy and I didn’t know how you’d drive me to the Cross.

That Cross isn’t only our door into God’s presence — the Cross is our only air in God’s presence.

And the Gospel has never stopped being the good news headline that I’ve needed every day because I’ve been the one breaking.

I’ve been the one who has had hollering mother meltdowns and wept on bathroom floors and I’ve been the one who has come to be held up by the tender grace of it:

Unless you walk with Jesus every day will be driven hard by pride or fear.

Remember how you once watched me drop potatoes into the pressure cooker and you asked me what a pressure cooker actually does anyways?

And I told you:

“Oh, a pressure cooker’s just a pot with a lid that doesn’t let the steam escape. And if the steam doesn’t escape —- whatever’s in the pot cooks faster.”

And if the steam doesn’t escape…

And you all have made me not escape into me.

You all have been a furnace for my soul to know the refining, the white hot heat of real love where God always tilts off the dross. I didn’t know it till you: When you lay down self, you find the deepest rest.

No one told me that it would all happen at the same hallowed time: Mothering is at once the hardest and the holiest and the happiest.

When war broke out over Monopoly and the raging upended the evening, when you slammed the door in my face, when I slammed the back door and went for a long walk down the back lane, you have never stopped handing me the gift:

As long as thanks is possible, then joy is always possible.

I have murmured thanks again and again like a sacrifice and He has turned the stench of here into incense.

I have preached gospel out loud to myself how many times a day and you have heard your mother with the soul amnesia remind herself again. “The parent must always self-parent first, self-preaching always comes before child-teaching.” [One Thousand Gifts]

How many times have we scrawled it across the chalkboard, as if we could scratch it into our marrow: Only speak words that make souls stronger.

Mothers do this:

We get up everyday and practice resurrection.

We choose: Live stressed and what we practice is practical atheism.

So we hold our tongue, we stretch ourselves out, we give you our eyes when you give us the play-by-play of every single page of the whole book and we practice smiling when you walk into a room so you can believe that your Father sings love over you.

We practice our faith. We practice our faith. We practice our faith. We get it wrong and we die daily and we live forgiveness and we practice our faith. Joy is a habit. Wear it.

Ten years now, nearly twice over, and how many times have I’ve blown it and keep preaching gentle truth back to the wrinkling woman in the mirror: The way to raise children is to not raise your voice. Souls are fragile. Raising your voice can raze your children to the ground.

Parenting is about preparing children to get along with each other, to get along with you and without you, and that it’s impossible to get along without God.

If I could go back again, even to yesterday:

The moment when you are most repelled by a child’s behavior, that is your warning light to draw the very closest to that child.

What we say to our kids in passing is what becomes their inner voice.

Anger is contagious. And so is grace.

Thank God.

Thank God that you all keep teaching me about me: That every one of us has two of us really. The Short-Term You —- and the Long-Term You.

The Immediate You. And the Ultimate You.

And if I only loved the right now Immediate You —- and let The Immediate You come and go and do whatever felt best, I wouldn’t be loving the Ultimate You.

I love the long-term Ultimate You too much to give the short-term Immediate You what you want —- but what isn’t ultimately best.

Sometimes the short-term Immediate You can’t have what immediately feels best— so the long-term Ultimate You has what is ultimately best.

This is the way my own Father parents me everyday.

When the credits roll for that little film of The Power of Ten, you turn to me and grin, “Adding one zero at a time sure changes everything doesn’t it?”

And I nod and smile. And kiss your forehead.

And maybe that’s what has surprised me most about motherhood

When you come with your zero, nada, nothing and multiply it to the power of God, you get surprised by exponential joy.




Related: 10 Point Manifesto to Joyful Parenting
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